What are the Common Orthostatic Hypotension Causes?

Treatment and prevention. Scaled up look on a mature nurse sitting next to a blonde lady and fixing a sphygmomanometer on her arm before a regular pressure check up.

Approximately 18% of men and women over 65 have orthostatic hypotension. It’s also the primary diagnosis in 35% of hospitalizations in the US.

A simple issue like dehydration may cause orthostatic hypotension, but it could also point to serious heart, neurological, or hormonal conditions. It causes symptoms such as fatigue or vision changes and can even make you pass out when you stand or sit up.

If you feel any of these changes, it’s important to know why so you can get the right treatment as soon as possible. Read on to learn the most common orthostatic hypotension causes.

What Is Orthostatic Hypotension?

In medical terms, orthostatic means “caused by an upright position” and hypotension means “abnormally low blood pressure.” Orthostatic hypotension is low blood pressure caused by being in an upright position.

Blood pressure measures the force of your blood against the walls of your arteries. It’s made up of 2 measurements; systolic, the pressure when the heart beats and fills the arteries, and diastolic, the pressure when it’s at rest. It’s read as a fraction with systolic over diastolic. Healthy levels are below 120/80 mmHg but above 90/60 mmHg. 

Orthostatic hypotension is present any time a person sits or stands up and there’s a fall of 20mm/Hg in systolic pressure and 10mm/Hg in diastolic pressure within 3 minutes.

Symptoms include:

  • Lightheadedness and dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Confusion 
  • Nausea
  • Black spots and blurry vision
  • Loss of consciousness

These symptoms can last for a few minutes or become chronic and lead to serious complications such as falls, strokes, and cardiovascular diseases. 

Methods of diagnosing orthostatic hypotension include:

  • Head-up tilt table test
  • Blood test,
  • Electrocardiogram or ECG
  • EKG or electrocardiogram
  • Ultrasound of the heart
  • Stress test

Ways to prevent the condition include wearing compression socks, increasing fluid and salt intake, avoiding strenuous activity, elevating your head while sleeping, and sitting on the edge of your bed for a minute before getting up. Treatment is difficult without knowing what’s causing it.

What Are the Most Common Orthostatic Hypotension Causes?

The simplest answer to a question like “what is orthostatic hypotension caused by” is the force of gravity. It causes blood to pool in your legs and abdomen when you stand up, leaving less for the brain to use.

This may cause you to feel dizzy or experience altered vision. If the supply is severely low, you may even pass out. Cells known as baroreceptors in the heart and neck arteries prevent this, but they may not always be able to work fast enough.

Minor lifestyle factors may be the cause of short-lived orthostatic hypotension. These include dehydration, low blood sugar, and overheating. 

There are also serious health conditions that double as orthostatic hypotension causes, including:

  • Bradycardia
  • Heart attacks
  • Heart failure
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple system atrophy
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Pure autonomic failure
  • Amyloidosis
  • Hypo or hyperthyroidism
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Low blood sugar
  • Diabetes

If you suffer from orthostatic hypotension, tell your doctors about any other conditions you have so they can pinpoint the exact cause of your symptoms.

Where Can I Learn More?

Orthostatic hypotension is a significant drop in blood pressure that happens when you stand or sit up. It’s a common issue but may be difficult to treat because it’s brought on by a range of other health problems. 

Some orthostatic hypotension causes require a small change, such as drinking fluids when you’re dehydrated. Others may only be fixed after long-term treatment, such as a heart condition. 

Read the rest of our content for more information on how to improve your health.